The Full Monty.
‘The first lesson of libel is, if you don’t like losing, don’t play the game.’
That eminently sensible piece of advice was given in January 1994 by Thomas Crone, the legal manager of The Sun newspaper to the ‘Eastenders’ actress, Gillian Tailforth after she had been given a particularly sound licking by this newspaper in one of the most notorious (and therefore most entertaining) libel cases of the 1990’s.
If only someone had given the same advice to the unusually named Moses Fairchild Gohoho in 1964, the Court of Appeal judges might have spared us one of the most bizarre episodes in its history: Thank goodness Gohoho’s advisors were slow on the uptake.
Mr Gohoho was a Ghanaian politician, author and publisher who wasn’t at all happy about some of the things that had been said about him in an article in the Ghana Evening News in March 1959. He decided to sue two companies who were involved in the placement of the piece, Lintas Export Advertising Services and West Africa Publicity Ltd. Like many a litigant before him and to a degree since, he decided that London, the libel capital of the World, would be the scene of his triumph.
It was a long hard slog and it wasn’t until 24th October that his case was heard. Having been declared bankrupt in May 1962, he could not have denied that the substantial damages he anticipated would come in very useful. All he needed really was a very sympathetic Jury.
When Mr Justice Thesiger announced the verdict, with costs in favour of Lintas Advertising, Gohoho’s spirits must have completely sagged. However, when the verdict fell in Gohoho’s favour against the second defendant, the triumphant litigant stood on the brink of untold riches.
It was then that he experienced, through the art of devastation more recently suffered by the least successful contestants on the television show, ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ The reason being Judge Thesiger sent him home with an award from West Africa Publicity of just one solitary halfpenny.
Being awarded derisory damages can feel even worse than losing. After all, if a man’s reputation isn’t even worth the price of a penny chew, what’s the point in having a reputation at all? Why not just blow it all?
However, that was what Moses Fairchild Gohoho did. Not for him a spot in a quiet corner licking his wounds. He then decided to appeal.
The big day for this was on Monday, the 20th January 1964. Lord Justices Sellers, Pearson and Russell sat down in judgement as Gohoho prepared to conduct his own defence. However, he was tripped up at the first hurdle as the defendant’s representatives made an unexpected but entirely reasonable request to the Judges.
They said to the judges that Gohoho still owes their client the sum of £273, in costs from the first hearing. As a result we will make an application that he should lodge security for that amount for these costs of this present appeal lest he should again be unsuccessful.
Gohoho was furious about this, stating that in his opinion this application was both ‘frivolous and vexatious.’ But their Lordships were unmoved by his passionate plea and gave him a period of 21 days to lodge the sum of £50.00. Unless he did so, the case would be dismissed. Then to add insult to injury the court then granted the defendants the costs of preparing their security application.
Gohoho’s bill, it seemed was already mounting and so was his blood pressure. Becoming increasingly ‘hot under the collar’, he removed his jacket and adopted a laying – down position on the bench, from where he had addressed the court. Their Lordships turned a blind eye at this time and called the next case while Gohoho exclaimed that he would come to the ‘court every day until this was fully resolved.’
It isn’t very often that the rather dry Law Report columns of the Times newspapers to an ‘eye-catching headline, but ‘Clothes Removed’ was one of those better moments in the life of a popular newspaper. Gohoho stripped off his trouser and his underpants and then reclined naked, except for his shirt, on the bench.
A female litigant, who happened to be sitting next to him, suddenly shouted out and fled at ‘breakneck’ speed to the sanctuary of the Junior’s counsel’s seats. Their Lordships adjourned the proceedings straight away and called for the court’s tipstaff and the police to remove Gohoho, the reclining figure.
The court was cleared of all the people present and Moses Fairchild Gohoho was carried out in the very strong arms of the law, protesting loudly, which could be heard all over the building.
Lord Justice Sellers then called for Moses Gohoho to appear before him in court, now this had become very serious for him. Gohoho was committed to prison for one week for his intransigence and the Ghanaian politician’s case still raises a smile when the story is mentioned, more than 40 years on.